Diagnosing bad smell in basement bathroom with BWV - smoke test or no?

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Nick in T.O.

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Hi Terry and everyone

Tried to keep this short, but wanted you to have detail. I'm in Hamilton, ON Canada. I bought a 50-60 year old bungalow and for the first few weeks after moving in I didn't *seem* to have an issue. Then I started getting an intermittent sewer gas/poop smell in the downstairs bathroom. This smell is pretty much localized to that bathroom. There is a backwater valve located in that bathroom as well. We did camera inspection and found a root blockage just upstream of the BWV and a mass of paper and solid waste there. I was so happy when it cleared - the plumber said 'well, that's your problem'. Water was just gushing through the BWV compared to before.

Strangely, a few days later the smell recurred and continues to recur. The smell is very intermittent and might be associated with cooler nighttime temperatures.

I'm writing because a plumber told me today that he wanted to do a smoke test. for $480 CDN (about $375 USD). This was a different guy than the one who scoped and snaked but has good reviews, so I called that firm back to compare quotes... and believe it or not, the person who answered the phone (this is RotoRooter) told me she didn't know what a smoke test is and they don't do them!! How could that be? One plumber says the first step in diagnosis is a smoke test and the next says they don't know what that is?

Another guy came by - this was a plumber from a firm that did work on the home a few years back. I had their paperwork from the old owner so I called them and they sent someone, which was nice. This guy looked took the access cover off my BWV and noticed that it was just earth down there. There was a sleeve going down the sides but it was buckled at one spot, and at the bottom was earth. He said 'I guarantee you that if you seal this up properly, your problem will go away. Air pressure changes and enviro changes can cause an intermittent problem like this if you have a broken pipe and it's seeping toilet water into the ground near here'. Which by the way is exactly right - the camera showed a broken pipe right at the point where the bathroom waste pipe connects up with the main (sorry for my terminology). I told this to the guy who wants to smoke test and he said 'How do bad smells travel through the ground?' I then told this to another guy I called for a smoke test quote (a guy who didn't know what a smoke test was) and he said 'it's fine that there's no gravel in the bottom of that BWV hole'.

Trying to navigate this!

I'm a little scared - I'm a professional musician and saved a long time to buy this house. I am afraid that I bought a dud and that this is a massive job. I don't know if you can help in any way. Thanks for reading.
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